Pokot Young Pastoralists at the Crossroads - Tradition, Modernity and Land Tenure Transformations in East Pokot, Kenya
Abstract: East Pokot, in North-Western Kenya, falls under the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands(ASALs) of the Sub-Saharan region. Due to the yearly prolonged dry seasons, pastoralismhas traditionally guaranteed the most reliable source of livelihood. Marginalised and excludedsince colonial times from the map of economic policies, East Pokot has only recently beenintegrated with the rest of the country by large-scale infrastructural and technological investmentsand services. In recent decades, the region has been transformed by population growth,changes in the ecosystem, progressive diffusion of modernity and the ensuing land tenuretransformations. Pokot pastoralists who populate the region are often portrayed as backward,violent, and hostile to modernisation. This study investigates how young Pokot pastoralistsassess tradition, modernity and land tenure changes. The investigation was conducted duringnine weeks of fieldwork in a confined area in central East Pokot. The study adopts qualitativeresearch methods and considers differences in gender, access to education and family background,while prioritising young people with a pastoralist background. The theoreticalframework is informed by Bourdieu’s theory of practice and Foucault’s approach to powerand power-knowledge. The findings disrupt the view of pastoralist resistance to modernityand self-exclusion, highlighting not only young pastoralists’ welcoming attitude towardstechnology, but also their fragmented perceptions and practices towards tradition, modernity,the shifting economic system and land tenure. The findings also unearth the emergence ofnew elites and expose misconceptions and stigmatisation of pastoralism, which surpass thecontingency of the local context.
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